CUP, the alternative pro-independence party

Q&A on the far-left candidacy which might be deciding in ensuring a majority for a Catalan state for a second time


(From left) ex-CUP members Eulàlia Reguant and Quim Arrufat alongside current candidate Carles Riera on Wednesday (by ACN)
(From left) ex-CUP members Eulàlia Reguant and Quim Arrufat alongside current candidate Carles Riera on Wednesday (by ACN) / Alex Rolandi

Alex Rolandi | Barcelona

December 14, 2017 07:23 PM

What is the CUP? 

The CUP, or Popular Unity Candidacy, was founded in 1986. Not your conventional political organization, it is assembly-based, working towards an independent Catalan republic established on social, environmentally-sustainable, anticapitalist and feminist ideologies. Made up of autonomous assemblies throughout the country, it believes in collective decision-making, shunning the idea of leadership in the ordinary sense.

Until 2012, when they first decided to present in the Catalan Parliamentary elections, they had previously only focussed on municipal issues. Indeed, the concept of municipalism forms a grand part of the CUP’s decentralized way of doing things. By giving more importance to municipal assemblies, the CUP aims to avoid the typical hierarchies that form in more traditional political parties.

For or against independence?

One of the CUP’s defining characteristics is its fierce stance on independence. In fact, its leaders have stated that they will only support a pro-independence government if it is committed to creating a free Catalan state, even if it means going it alone without engaging in dialogue with Spain.

How did they do in the preceding term?

In 2015, they were the kingmakers in parliament for the pro-independence coalition that emerged after the elections held that year. Although they refused to form part of the coalition itself, they did give parliamentary support, especially on issues related to independence, such as the referendum and the declaration of independence. Yet they rejected the candidate for president of the ruling coalition, Junts pel Sí. It was Artur Mas, who had been the Catalan president from 2010 to 2015, when the economic crisis was at its peak and the executive decided to make cuts. After a three-month row with Junts pel Sí, CUP managed to make Mas step down. Carles Puigdemont unexpectedly ended up becoming the president.

What do the polls say?

In the 2015 Catalan elections, the CUP won 10 seats in Parliament in what was a record victory for the party. If the latest polls are anything to go by, they are likely to maintain this number, but there is the possibility of a slight decrease in votes.

Who are some of the CUP’s main candidates?

The CUP have an alternative way of doing things, in more than one sense. This is especially true with how its candidates present in elections. If a CUP member has been MP for more than two years and an election is called, they cannot present again. This does not mean, however, that if they have been in office for more than two years and no election is called, that a candidate must step down.

Carles Riera, who is the CUP’s main candidate for this election, was already MP but he had not been in office for more than two years, so he is able to present for December 21. He is outspoken in his criticism of the Spanish state, even going as far as calling it a “despotic and demophobic dictatorship.” He has called on people to be “firm and unified,” and “always with a revolutionary spirit” if Catalonia is ever to break-free from Spain and become a country in its own right.One of Barcelona’s CUP candidates, is equally staunch in her opinion of Spain being a “repressive” regime. The writer Bel Olid has criticized the Spanish government for “destroying civil rights,” renouncing its constitution as something written by “seven old white men who are rich and powerful,” and calling for a new one to be created with the people in mind so that “everyone can participate.” She recently stated that the CUP is the only party pledging to push for a free Catalonia.

Another candidate to watch out for is the head of the CUP’s list for Lleida, Mireia Boya. Although she only entered politics relatively recently, she has already been MP for the CUP. Like Riera, as she had not been in office for more than two years she is able to present once more. Also forthright in her criticism of the Spanish government, she recently deemed the removal of the disputed Sixena artworks as an attempt to “humiliate Catalonia.”

As the CUP believe in common leadership, rather than having a singular party head, any decisions made by the party will be done so in assembly, so as to avoid the possibility of somebody getting power-hungry. This will also be the case for any of any candidate of the CUP that makes it into the Catalan Parliament on December 21.